Ruckh aims to strengthen Honors Program as new program director search continues

Interim Honors Program Director Eric Ruckh has taken multiple steps toward enhancing the Honors Program as the Office of the Provost prepares to select a new program director.

Eric Ruckh, interim honors program director, has been working to enhance the program through an updated website and co-curricular additions, among other improvements. Photo courtesy of Eric Ruckh.

Ruckh, who became interim director in August, first began forming an Honors Advisory council that consists of nine faculty members and one Honors Program student. The council, according to Ruckh, will provide oversight for the program on topics ranging from curriculum and admission to developing co-curricular activities.

“The council is particularly interested in making sure that it has a key role in the development – of the further development – and reformation of the Honors curriculum,” Ruckh said.

Most honors programs, according to Ruckh, have a “more tightly linked living situation” in addition to the curriculum, compared to SIUE’s current situation, prompting Ruckh to work with Student Affairs and University Housing to bring that concept to SIUE.

“Two of the four or five Honors 120 courses that will be offered in the fall, all of the students who are in those two of those courses, will be living together in an Honors wing [in a residence hall],” Ruckh said.

This concept has, however, been “informally” occurring, according to Ruckh, because SIUE’s Meridian Scholars – who are automatically admitted to the Honors Program – live in the same wing. Meridian Scholars receive scholarships for their “strong academic ability” and “record of personal achievement, leadership, service and special talents,” according to the SIUE website.

In Ruckh’s Honors 120 course last semester, he said he could see – and was told – that “intense conversations” occurred in the living situation.

“We want to intensify that,” Ruckh said. “So to move up from really having no linkage between courses to having two – two of five – of the courses linked in such a way is a big step for us. And so it will provide momentum for the incoming director to continue to intensify the learning community associated with the Honors Program and intensify the co-curricular aspect of the program.”

One way the incoming director will be able to enhance co-curricular activities for Honors Scholars is through a development fund Ruckh is in the process of establishing with the SIUE Foundation.

Ruckh has also started to revamp the Honors Program website to make it “more inviting to incoming freshmen and potential students.”

He also plans to prepare a position paper for the incoming director that explores the strengths and weaknesses of the program, “the range of possibilities” for potential development “with the idea of establishing a kind of groundwork and a field that it would be possible for the Honors Director to work within, but without constraining the Honors Director in some fundamental way.”

The two finalists for the position – psychology professor Jack Shelley-Tremblay of the University of South Alabama and English professor Jennifer Eimers of Missouri Valley College – are expected to teach a portion of Ruckh’s Honors 320 course as part of the interview process. The Honors Advisory Council will meet with the candidates and pass their statements to a search committee.

More information about the Honors Program can be found at

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